Though it is known as the ‘highest little castle in the Cotswolds,’ Broadway Tower isn’t a castle at all, but a ‘folly’ or decorative building. The tower was an experiment sponsored by Lady Coventry to find out if a beacon lit on Broadway Hill would be visible from her house in Worcester, 22 miles away. Designed by James Wyatt and completed in 1798, the building reaches 1,024 feet above sea level, while the tower itself stands 65 feet high, making it one of the highest points in the Cotswolds, second only to Cleeve Hill.
The tower is built in Saxon style, complete with arched windows, turrets and gargoyles. In 1827 it became home to Sir Thomas Philipps’ printing press and extensive literary collection, and attracted some interesting guests in the late 19th century, including Arts & Crafts designers Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris. The latter described Broadway Tower as ‘the most inconvenient and the most delightful place ever seen,’ and was inspired to establish the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 1877, which remains active to this day.
The tower has also been used by the Royal Observers Corp to track enemy aircraft and to measure nuclear fallout during the Cold War. 50 yards from the tower is one of England’s few remaining fully-equipped nuclear bunkers, which was stood down in 1991.
Accessible by footpath or car, the tower stands in the picturesque Broadway Tower Country Park, where red deer can be spotted roaming the grounds. Today, the tower is a museum of three floors linked by a spiral staircase, with a tearooms and gift shop.
In case you were wondering, Lady Coventry’s experiment was a success – the beacon could be seen clearly from her house in Worcester!